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Use Commas with Caution

Here are two common situations in which many people overuse commas.

  1. Incorrect comma between the subject and predicate
    Example: Her enthusiasm for the group’s work, led her to volunteer.
    Correction: Her enthusiasm for the group’s work led her to volunteer.
  2. Incorrect comma between two phrases joined by and
    Example: She volunteered to chair the task force, and create a brochure about the gardening project.
    Correction: She volunteered to chair the task force and create a brochure about the gardening project.

    Example: Mildred bought gardening tools, and potting soil.
    Correction: Mildred bought gardening tools and potting soil.

Teaching Tip: Don’t use commas as breath marks. Although commas determine where a reader might pause, the reverse is not true. A reader’s pauses do not determine comma placement.

Beginning with sentences that are correctly punctuated, have students read sentences aloud. Discuss how the punctuation is related to the sound of the sentence. Then try some example sentences that have the punctuation removed.

You can also use this strategy to help students edit their own writing. Have them read their writing aloud one sentence at a time. Discuss how they have used commas in relation to how the sentences sound.